Monday, August 7, 2006

USA Slams China 119-73

                      LeBron James
GHANGZHOU, China -- Yao Ming could only watch as Team USA rolled to another dominant performance.

Continuing its preparation for the world championships, the United States basketball team began its trip to the Far East with a 119-73 victory over China on Monday.

Any chance China had of competing with Team USA hinged on the presence of the 7-5 Yao, a four-time All-Star center with the Houston Rockets who is coming off the best season of his career. But Yao is also coming off a broken foot and did not play in Monday's exhibition.

His size could have posed problems for the Americans, who have just one 7-footer -- Brad Miller of the Sacramento Kings -- on their roster.

But China could not contend with the superior athleticism of Team USA, which penetrated for numerous dunks. LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers was the ringleader with 23 points, including five dunks.

Fellow Class of 2003 superstars Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat also penetrated at will. Anthony scored 18 points and Wade added 14.

James scored 13 of his points in the first half when Team USA built a 60-37 lead. He added three dunks in the third quarter as the advantage grew to more than 40 points.

The margin of victory was even greater than last Thursday's 114-69 victory over Puerto Rico at Las Vegas -- the first of five exhibition games.

Team USA and China, which finished eighth at the 2004 Olympics, are in the same group at the World Championships.

The Americans should face a stiffer challenge here Tuesday when they face Brazil, which has a roster littered with players with NBA ties.

Team USA travels to Seoul to take on Lithuania on Sunday and hosts Korea on Aug. 15. After those games, coach Mike Krzyzewski is expected to make two cuts to reduce the roster to 12 for the world championships, which begin Aug. 19.

Krzyzewski also must select a captain and revealed that James, Anthony and Wade will receive strong consideration.

At the outset of training camp in July, Krzyzewski -- the first college coach put in charge of the national team since the advent of the NBA era in 1992 -- said the goal was for the Americans to re-establish themselves as the dominant team in international basketball.

In 2002, the U.S. team finished an embarrassing sixth at the world championships, losing an astonishing three times despite the presence of NBA stars. It was more of the same at the 2004 Olympics, where the Americans lost three more games and settled for the bronze medal.

The fall from the top prompted wholesale changes within USA Basketball, including the appointment of managing director Jerry Colangelo and a tryout process which had not been used since the 1980s.

In the world championships, Team USA is in Group D with Puerto Rico, China, Senegal, Slovenia and Olympic silver medalist Italy, which routed the Americans in an exhibition before the 2004 Games.

Only the winner of the 24-team world championships and the Olympic hosts automatically qualify for the 2008 Games in Beijing. If Team USA does not win the world championships -- which it has not done since 1994 -- it must qualify through the 2007 FIBA Tournament of the Americas in Venezuela.

No comments: